Patient Empowerment: Sharing Notes, Recording Conversations Lead to Better Self-Care

Thursday, October 18th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

The more patients know, the more likely they are to take better care of themselves.

That’s the bottom line from a new study on note sharing between doctors and patients, and a phone app that allows patients to legally record their doctors’ conversations.

According to the study from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), giving patients access to their physicians’ notes makes them feel more in control of their healthcare, have a better understanding of their medical issues, experience improved recall of their care plan and pay more attention to medication regimens.

The BIDMC-led study of more than 100 physicians participating in an OpenNotes trial at Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and more than 13,500 patients also dispelled fears doctors initially had that their patients might inundate them with phone calls or messages, or be offended or worried. In fact, according to the study, many doctors reported deeper levels of trust, transparency and communication with their patients.

“Patients are enthusiastic about open access to their primary care doctors’ notes. More than 85 percent read them, and 99 percent of those completing surveys recommended that this transparency continue,” says Tom Delbanco, MD, co-first author, a primary care doctor at BIDMC and the Koplow-Tullis Professor of General Medicine and Primary Care at Harvard Medical School. “Open notes may both engage patients far more actively in their care and enhance safety when the patient reviews their records with a second set of eyes.”

Even more surprising, and clinically important, was that nearly 80 percent of patients reported increased adherence to medication, researchers added. And some doctors felt that patients were less likely to be worried about what was being written in the “little black book” because they knew what was in there, as opposed to those who didn’t know.

Or those who suffered from ‘bad news deafness.’

“Whenever a patient hears something they’re not happy with, they tend to blank out and they don’t listen to anything the doctor says,” said Dr. Michael Nusbaum, founder of Giffen Communications. “This is so important because a lot of the time, a doctor will give instructions to a patient, and it’s too much for the patient to handle in that moment.”

Giffen Solutions has created a phone app designed specifically for patients; it allows them to record physician phone calls. Giffen says MedXCom patient, a free app that can be found in the iPhone app store, is a HIPAA-compliant, secure way to record medical information. It enables patients to refer back to conversations when they can better absorb it, and then proceed from there, not unlike note sharing. Patients aren’t doctors, Giffen officials say, they don’t always understand medical terminology, or forget it in time.

Both ideas help to empower patients, and inspire them to take more active roles in their health. In fact, three out of five patients who participated in note sharing expressed their desire to add comments to their doctors’ notes, and 86 percent said that the availability of notes would influence their choice of providers in the future.

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